Which Michigan State Team Is Going To Show Up? - Terry Hoeppner delivered a message to the Hoosiers Tuesday about the team they'd be facing Saturday at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. "I am going to tell them to not expect anything but their best shot," Hoeppner said at his Tuesday press conference. "Don't read the media or what they say about them being in disarray."
What Hoeppner wants is his team to expect to see the same Michigan State team that knocked off Notre Dame 44-41 and then blitzed Illinois 61-14 to climb to No. 11 in the national polls. Coach John L. Smith's team has since lost three in a row to fall out of the polls and out of Big Ten title contention, but Hoeppner is very much aware that the same players that were a part of the Spartans' big wins will be the ones lining up opposite his team on Saturday.
While that is the case, the Spartans are in a bit of disarray, and they have been notorious for having quick starts followed by late-season swoons in the last five years. During that five-year plus time span, Michigan State is 18-7 in August and September; 8-12 in October; and 5-14 in November.
Indiana will likely find out quickly which Michigan State team will show up for the 11 a.m. (EST) contest. Like Indiana, Michigan State needs the win to move one step closer to bowl eligibility, which might be the sort of incentive the Spartans need to put their recent struggles behind them.
Figuring out a way to pressure Drew Stanton - Statistically speaking, Michigan State ranks ninth in the Big Ten in sacks given up, as Drew Stanton has been sacked 17 times. That might suggest that Indiana won't have much difficulty in harassing one of the league's best quarterbacks. That 17-sack total, though, is skewed by the fact Ohio State sacked Stanton 12 times in their 35-24 victory two weeks ago, meaning that on average Stanton has been sacked less than one time per game in Michigan State's other six contests.
That's a problem, because Indiana must get some pressure on Stanton or he'll likely pick the IU secondary to pieces. Afterall, this is a quarterback who powers a Spartan offense that ranks first in the Big Ten and third nationally in total offense (538.3 yards/game) and also averages 37.9 points per game. Despite throwing three interceptions last week against Northwestern, he still ranks third nationally in pass efficiency (168.5) and he threw for 340 yards against an Ohio State secondary that surrendered only 95 passing yards to Indiana.
It's a good bet that Indiana will try to bring a steady stream of blitzers in an effort to hurry Stanton and get him on the move. Of course, Stanton on the move is no picnic either as he's a threat to run the ball as well, but the Hoosiers can't afford to give him four and five seconds to peruse his various downfield options. It's not imperative that Indiana put up big sacks totals, but it needs to force Stanton to throw earlier than he'd like and not give him the sort of time to assess all of his options.
What Did the Ohio State game do to Indiana's confidence? - On Tuesday the Hoosier players were saying all the right things about turning the page on the Ohio State game and focusing on the Michigan State contest, but the 31-point whipping is bound to take away some of the swagger that Indiana had after a solid opening six weeks of the season.
In every other game, the Hoosiers either came away with a victory or with a performance that suggested things were going in the right direction. In losses at Wisconsin and Iowa, Indiana battled to a statistical draw in Madison (377-369 yards of total) and then followed that up by controlling the ball for more than 2/3 of the game against Iowa (40:09) while amassing 446 yards of total offense.
But Ohio State whipped the Hoosiers not only on the scoreboard, but in every phase of the game and in every way possible. That's bound to shake the confidence of a team that, quite frankly, didn't have a whole lot of it to begin with when Terry Hoeppner first took over the program.
The onus will be on the senior class to make sure the team's psyche is in tact by the time kickoff arrives Saturday. Michigan State will likely hit the Hoosiers with a few offensive haymakers at Spartan Stadium, and the Hoosiers will need to respond, as opposed to wilt, when moments of adversity arise.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Key Matchups
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Things IU Must Do to Win
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
On Saturday – Hoosier Gameday
Three Days and Counting...
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